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9:18, 13 January 2018

New Sound at Saudi Soccer Game: Women Cheering From the Stands


New Sound at Saudi Soccer Game: Ladies Cheering From the Stands

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When the 1st aim was scored during the soccer game in Saudi Arabia on Friday, a new noise joined the ruckus in the stands: the sound of girls cheering.

In the soccer-obsessed but ultraconservative Islamic kingdom, the match amongst the local teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in Jidda was the initial time that ladies have been allowed to attend a game at a public stadium, a new step in the government’s efforts to loosen gender restrictions.

Female fans of the group Al-Ahli took selfies ahead of the match in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, on Friday. Women have been permitted to attend the public occasion for the 1st time.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Instances

Saudi Arabia has lengthy been one of the world’s most restrictive areas for ladies, where a combination of religion, social custom and government regulation has dictated what they put on and barred them from driving, holding a range of jobs and traveling as they wish.

But these guidelines have begun to modify below King Salman, who became the Saudi monarch in 2015, and are driven by his son, Mohammed bin Salman, 32, the country’s crown prince.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, the head of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, third from left, attended the match.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Occasions

Prince Mohammed has removed powers from the religious police, placed girls in prominent positions they would have never held ahead of and vowed to lift the ban on ladies driving in June.

These efforts are portion of broader reforms he is leading to restructure the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil, temper the kingdom’s religious rhetoric and supply new employment and entertainment choices for the kingdom’s huge youth population, such as women.

Haifa Alharbi, 30, had previously attended soccer games in Saudi Arabia, dressed as a boy.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Instances

The selection to allow girls to attend soccer games — albeit in “family sections” that hold them separate from the all-male sections — is portion of these efforts. It also seeks to get Saudi families to invest a lot more of their income on entertainment at house as an alternative of going abroad to have entertaining.

Ahead of the soccer game, there was an additional tiny sign of change: the country’s first automobile showroom dedicated to female clients was opened.

But for the soccer game, a former Saudi sports journalist shared a photo of female ushers preparing to greet the female fans and their households.

Guys and females seated collectively in the families section cheered.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Occasions

Ladies cheered as an announcer study the names of the players, and as the teams faced off.

Soccer is extremely popular in Saudi Arabia, with several fans of international and neighborhood leagues, but female enthusiasts long had to content material themselves with watching their preferred teams on tv.

Despite the fact that tickets were only 20 riyals ($5.33), the family members section for Friday’s match was less than half full.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Occasions

Numerous ladies excited about the new capacity to watch live games — as well as guys opposed to this — took to social media on Friday, writing under the Arabic hash tags #FamiliesEnteringStadiums and #ThePeopleWelcomeWomenEnteringStadiums.

“This is far more than women’s rights,” Fatimah S. Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said in a Twitter post, adding, “I’m rooting for the ladies.”

A female usher at the stadium.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Instances

“I do not see that letting ladies enter stadiums is incorrect or forbidden,” Manayer al-Qahtani also wrote on Twitter. “To the contrary, it does not go against religion nor against the customs and traditions. Numerous girls adhere to soccer and we gather at game time. It is a legal right for us.”

But some individuals employed the hash tag to criticize the occasion, writing that the place of females is in their residences, focusing on their children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium exactly where male crowds could curse and get rowdy.

Leaving the stadium following the match.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Instances

The kingdom’s stadium had not been built with ladies in mind, so modifications were made so that they could attend matches. The government’s Basic Sports Authority mentioned this week that three stadiums had so far been modified to accommodate females by means of the addition of private sections for women and their male relatives, female bathrooms and even prayer locations.

Though tickets were only 20 riyals ($five.33), the family members section for Friday’s match was much less than half complete. But anticipation for the game was higher on social media. Men and women shared pictures of female fans preparing to enter the stadium.

It was a far cry from 2015, when a Saudi woman who attempted to attend a soccer game in Jidda was arrested soon after she was spotted by security officers wearing pants, a lengthy-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection, regional news outlets reported.

Females will also attend a game on Saturday in the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, as nicely as a game on Thursday in the city of Dammam.

On Friday, Al-Ahli trounced Al-Batin five- in the Premier League match, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, a member of the royal household, attended the match and stated on Twitter:

“Today, you brought happiness to every Saudi family members and woman who attended the first game. This is a historic moment for the Kingdom.”

A version of this article seems in print on , on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: New Sound at Soccer Matches in Saudi Arabia: Women’s Cheers. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Published at Sat, 13 Jan 2018 02:06:35 +0000


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